Wreck of the German U260

 

 

 

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Construction

Type: VIIC Submarine

Built: Vegesacker in March 1942

Yard: Bremen

Hull: Steel twin screwed U boat

Dimensions: 67.1 m x 6.2 m x 9.6 m

Tonnage: 1070

 

 

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U260 Submarine - 12 March 1945
U260 side

This German Sub was patrolling the South coast of Ireland and was reportedly mined by a torpedo some 20 miles off the Fastnet Rock.

 

Having been built over a nine month period at the Vegesacker-Werft in Bremen, she was commissioned in March 1942 and started her service when the “wolf pack” days of large kill ratios were almost over. She measured 67.1 by 6.2 metres and displaced a total of 1070 tons. Fitted with 4 bow tubes and one at the stern, her class was the workhorse of the Kriegsmarine U-boat fleet and 568 were commissioned in all.  U-260, however, did not seem to share in the bounty, with only one sinking to her credit, the 4,900 ton British freighter Empire Wagtail, during the deployment of wolf packs “Spitz” & “Ungestum” against convoy ONS-154 between 26th and 30th December 1942.  Of the 45 ships in the convoy, 14 were sunk totalling 67437 tons and one was damaged.

 

Mysteriously she disappears from records thereafter and may have been assigned intelligence duties.  She served in nine patrols in all but there are large gaps in her deployment that may indicate other tasking.  Letters from one crewman tell of operations against various allied ports presumable to gain intelligence on convoy arrival/departure dates and general harassment of shipping.  This may give an insight into why she was so close inshore to West Cork early in March 1945.  U-boats were a recognised means of slipping agents ashore and a boat with a captain adroit in covert operations tends to draw these assignments repeatedly.  But why so late in a war that Germany knew it was going to lose?

 

The crew were engaged in normal operations when a massive crash was felt through out the boat.  Captain Claus Becker believed he had hit a mine and once he had clawed his boat to the surface reported this to U-Boat Command.  Torpedoes are still visible in a few of the bow tubes and yet there were no secondary detonations when the mine in the official report destroyed the bow?  The position he gave was 15 miles south from her resting place today some miles east of the Fastnet Lighthouse.

 

Unknown to the hydrographers of the day, a pinnacle of rock rises to within 15 metres of the surface about 200 metres SSE of the U-260.  Now known as ’78 rock, it was an unfortunate omission which provides a more plausible explanation for the boats loss. If the boat was engaged in secret operations, the last thing Captain Becker wanted to do would be to compromise future opportunities and existing operatives.

Monday evening, March 12th, 1945 was a fine night, with a slight haze, calm sea and a light southerly wind.  When the crew abandoned their boat in small 8 man rubber dinghies, some of which were over loaded, the flood tied swept them east.  11 men eventually made landfall on Galley Head and contacted the lighthouse keeper who alerted the military barracks in Cork.  At 0510 hrs the Courtmacsherry Lifeboat, “Sarah Ward and William David Crosweller” launched and picked up a further 37 crew about five miles west of Galley Head.  What was immediately apparent to the rescuers was that the crew was split into two distinct groups.  At first this gave rise to speculation that there were two submarines but no other evidence was ever found.  In an unbelievable departure from operational procedure, secret papers, that should have been destroyed, were recovered floating in a sealed container.  These included code books, orders and the Captain’s personal log, which had been reported destroyed to the Kriegsmarine High Command.  These documents are now in the military archives in Dublin.

 

The crew were interned and eventually found themselves transferred to the “Curragh” where they remained from April until the beginning of October when they were repatriated.

 

The wreck was lost and forgotten because the official report stated that the boat was mined 15 miles south of its present position.  The wreck was rediscovered by accident when a fisherman snagged his nets in the area and asked a diving friend to investigate.  At only 67 metres long by 6 metres wide she is possible to circumnavigate in one dive.  However there are so many interesting areas to explore a number of dives are need before you can claim you have done the U-260.

 

The first area most divers want to visit is the conning tower. The cladding of the tower and the ‘Wintergarten’ have fallen away exposing a rounded hump that houses the outer chamber.  The open hatch gives entry to the control room.  The main attack periscope just behind the hatch is retracted but the skyscope and DF aerial loop are clearly visible.  The periscope lens is kept clean by the hands of every diver who reach out to touch the essence of the U-260.  Towards the bow four watertight lockers are visible.  These were used to store rubber dinghies and other kit that would be needed on deck in a hurry.  The bow is truncated where the torpedo tubes enter the pressure hull leaving a jumble of tubes and metal scattered on the seabed.  Just in front of the conning tower is the folded Walter snorkel.  This innovation allowed the vessel to run on her diesel engines whilst submerged and was retrofitted to the boat in August 1944 prior to her eighth patrol.  Immediately behind the conning tower you come across the air vents for the accommodation and engine room.

 

The aft gun pedestal stands all alone in the vast expanse of the rear deck that tapers off to the impressive twin screws and hydro planes at the stern.  Here, tucked away so that most divers miss it, nestles the stern tube.  Situated behind a concave plate, that hinged aside when needed, lies U-260’s sting in the tail.  There are a few holes in the plating around the stern that are now inhabited by large congers, so watch where you put your hands!

The U-260 continues to fascinate everyone who comes into contact with her.

 

 

U260 plan type VIIC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Location

51° 29' N 009° 06' W

4m South of Glandore

 

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Depth

Top: 38 mtr

Seabed: 42 mtr

 

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Disposition

Lying upright with a 50° - 60° list to port and her bow pointing S/SW.

Seabed: Sand below most of the wreck but running into rock at stern.

Slack-dependant dive site.

NOTE: there is still live ammunition on this wreck.